In my seven years within the men’s dating advice industry, I’ve noticed a pattern among the majority of men who struggle in their intimate relationships. Virtually all of them have mindsets and beliefs about women that skew to one of two extremes. Let’s call them the Women Lovers and the Women Haters.

Women Lovers skew to the extreme of loving women to the point of worship. They rearrange their existences for even the possibility of affection from the women they desire. They are supplicant and people-pleasing. They put the pussy on a pedestal. These are the men who regularly find themselves in love with their best female friends, who find themselves buying gifts and doing favors for a woman who has shown them no sign of affection, who get walked over and manipulated in their relationships to the point of agony. And they take it. They take it because they worship the feminine love and they romanticize their self-sacrifice and suffering for the sake of it.

Women Haters, on the other hand, don’t exactly hate women per se, it’s more of a love/hate relationship. They don’t empathize with women. They see a strict dichotomy between the sexes: women are some kind of “other” that is to be researched and conquered. Sex and affection are rewards to be won over through hard work and struggle. Women Haters tend to separate the men and women within their life. They perceive women as fundamentally different to themselves and at times even adopt an antagonistic view of them, as if there’s some sort of power struggle that is perpetually being fought between the penis and the vagina. Women Haters often go on angry rants about women being sloven, dirty, slutty, not knowing their place, ignoring their social roles, not fulfilling their duties, being bitchy and crazy and on and on. Haters tend to gravitate towards being players. They maintain dysfunctional and manipulative relationships, as the women they end up attracting match them in both bitterness and distrust.

These two extremes sound quite different, but they’re actually the same. There is little to no difference between the Woman Lover and the Woman Hater. They’re the same beast wearing different clothes. Both have an unhealthy fixation on receiving affection from women — one obsesses for love, the other obsesses for sex. Both re-arrange their lives and their beliefs to accord to what they believe the women around them will react to — one re-arranges himself for female approval, the other re-arranges himself for female-dominance. Both types attract dysfunctional and manipulative relationships — one is the user/abuser, the other is the used/abused. Both fail to see women as equals — one sees them as superior while the other sees them as inferior.

One man, smiling in one picture and frowning in another

As with most observations on sexual behavior, Freud observed it first. Freud noticed in his practice that men who grew up with fucked up relationships with their mothers developed complexes surrounding women and sex. These men came to one of two unconscious conclusions. Either they failed to establish a loving relationship with their mother because women are inherently degenerate, irrational and inferior to men. Or they failed to establish a loving relationship with their mother because they were never worthy or good enough themselves to earn their mother’s love.

What was interesting was that Freud found that these two unconscious beliefs flipped back and forth depending on the situation and depending on the woman. These men, when confronted with a woman they sexually desired, would see her as a trash-ridden whore, something sub-human to be used for their own pleasure and amusement and then discarded. And when confronted with women of upstanding morals and status and beauty, they exalted her, seeing her as something pure and perfect and of a higher order that they themselves could never attain.

Unfortunately, this caused major relationship problems. They wanted to marry a pure and innocent girl, but then they couldn’t have sex with her because that would make her a putrid and gutter-ridden floozy. But then when they wanted to have sex with a woman, they could never date her, because it signaled her lack of morals and innocence. If they loved her, they couldn’t fuck her. And if they could fuck her, they couldn’t love her.

These men psychologically painted themselves into a corner. No matter what they did, their dissatisfaction and frustration with women would multiply. It’s kind of a sexual version of Groucho Marx’s “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member” conundrum.

Freud called this The Madonna/Whore Complex. These men came to see two mutually-exclusive versions of women, both desirable yet inadequate in their own special way.

Women Lovers who fail miserably with women fail because they hold their love for women above their own will, desires and values. Women Haters who fail miserably with women fail because they hold their disdain for women above their own will, desires and values. For example, the Woman Lover who fails will be the classic “nice guy” — doing her favors for no reason, agreeing with her even when he doesn’t, pampering her with compliments and affection that are disingenuous and undeserved.

Women Haters who fail will often say things like, “I’m not going to talk to her, she looks like a slut.” Or, “I don’t want to call her back, bitches should be calling me.” Therefore they sit at home complaining about the women of the world who never call, never putting two-and-two together that nobody would ever want to call somebody who demands the attention and affection of others.

Two faces of a woman, back to back

Women Lovers will tend to attract dysfunctional and narcissistic women, women who have an unending need for validation and affection, even when they don’t deserve it. The Woman Lovers will cherish the chance to give their unending adoration to a woman who can seemingly never get enough of it. Woman Lovers will often find themselves in a series of long-term dysfunctional relationships where they feel unheard, where they are constantly “fixing” the problems of their partner, where they end up briefly loved and then left behind for seemingly no explicable reason.

Women Haters will attract low self-esteem women, as these are the only women who will put up with being disrespected and used. Women Haters will get laid often because they often come accompanied with a bad boy attitude of false superiority that can be sexy to some women — for a short period of time. Women Haters will struggle with intimacy and opening themselves up to trusting a woman long enough to stay with her. Instead, they will over-compensate with pursuing quantity of connections over quality.

Women Lovers are romantics. They imagine themselves as Casanovas or Don Juans. They fantasize about love and dizzying nights of passion.

Women Haters are players. They imagine themselves as rock stars or porn stars. They fantasize about sex and dominance, about women pleasing their every carnal desire.

The Lover is aware of his desire for romance and affection but is out of touch with his objectification of women and how it demeans both them and himself.

The Hater is aware of his objectification of women but is out of touch with his desire for romance and affection and often suppresses it as well as his other emotions.

A single man with issues around women can oscillate between the two sides quite easily and comfortably. A Lover who subsumes himself in his relationships to the point of non-existence, gets walked over and used and hurt. He comes out and morphs into a Hater, objectifying women and using them for his basic physical desires. His need to feel superior and powerful consumes his relationships, until he finds himself rejected a few times by women he’s attracted to. Suddenly, his Lover comes out, with all of its messy desperation and sadness. He calls her incessantly, leaving sappy voicemails and apologizing, saying anything and everything he thinks will get her to come back to him. When she comes back to him, he slowly reverts to his Hater alter-ego, treating her as some object who is incapable of ever fully understanding or appreciating him.

The cure to the Madonna/Whore Complex is simple: it’s to respect and treat women as equals, not better, not worse, but as simple humans. That means not raising her above oneself and worshiping her beautiful and pure features. It also means not demeaning her for her natural human urges. It means respecting oneself and one’s desires, understanding that not every woman is going to be the right one for you, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything significant about the population as a whole. It means understanding that you are a complex individual as well, and you have conflicting desires that women sometimes can or cannot account for, and that holding them responsible for your conflicting desires, is to only avoid the true work that needs to be done.

(Cover image by Hernan Irastorza is licensed under CC BY 2.0)